In a recent post on the TFR Instagram, I wrote: “I’m really trying to shift the way we all think about learning, writing, being creative and reading. That is to say, I want to remind everyone that you need not be the next Picasso to create art, that you don’t need to spend all of your time in a library to be a reader and that learning need not be confined to the classroom.”
So, I’m here to actualize that effort and help you guys develop some creative habits and encourage you to do something that’s been whispering your name for a while now.
A professor of mine once told me, “the one difference between the people who succeed and the people who don’t is that one of them tried.” I mean, damn. Talk about some inspiration to get your ass off the couch and do something. Find some purpose, I promise you’ll thank me later.
Here’s a list of some skills/activities that you can work on, but keep in mind that it is by no means exhaustive:
Paint some shit
Learn how to watercolor (I hear it’s really hard??)
Write a chapter of a book (when done enough this is referred to as the process of writing a novel)
Write in a journal Track your habits
Read a book
Sew a pillow or, like literally sew whatever you want?
On that same note, learn to embroider (it’s actually, surprisingly, not so hard)
Exercise (in any capacity that is available to you)
Plant some things
Draw some things
Glue googley eyes on things
Chef it up
Work on your penmanship (see: cursive and/or calligraphy)
Write handwritten letters
Read the newspaper
I hope these examples have given you sufficient inspiration. Now, hold onto your idea. Don’t forget it, and bear with me through these steps. It’s time to get practical.
1. Write down your new goal
Yes - with a real pen and a real piece of paper. Typing in your notes app doesn't cut it here. Just trust the process. Would I ever mislead you?
2. Buy foundational supplies - and get excited about them
In the same vein as the fact that new workout clothes are phase one in starting a new fitness regimen, researching and purchasing new supplies are phase one in making a habit of learning and creating. Really, I’m talking about investing in any sort of foundational supplies for your activity.
For me, I’m obsessed with writing things down and journaling, so I bought a new pack of Poketo pens that I’m head over heels in love with. There’s something about the perfect weight and texture and grip of a nice pen that just is so compelling to me and just makes me want to write literally all the time. I have only used their Apex and Prism rollerball styles, but I can swear that these pens changed my life - so get those if you need pens.
Anyway, I advocate for the purchase of new foundational supplies for a couple reasons. First and foremost, it’s super important to integrate joy into the process of learning/reading/creating when you’re trying to get into it. Even if you don’t love the action at first, loving the supplies will help you get there. It’s also so important because the supplies you use will make the activity feel personal to you. It’s a way of customizing your experience to be what you’re looking for. For example, if you want to read more, a nice bookmark or a hardcover copy of the book you want to read would be good options. If you’re trying to monitor habits, a journal or small book would be a great item to invest in. There are endless opportunities here.
(Other good places to look for decor/supplies/little things to get the vibes right: Etsy, Poketo, DesignMilk, Paper Source or literally anywhere else on the internet/in real life)
3. Leave the aforementioned supplies in the open
If available, try to designate a spot within your living space to this activity. Maybe a certain chair or a specific area of your bedroom or the kitchen table would do the trick - wherever feels right to you. Whatever, and wherever that space is, do what you can to leave your new supplies there, out and in sight at all (or at least most) times. This practice allows you to keep your goals in the back of your head, even while working on other projects. When you walk by and see your yoga mat out, you will automatically be reminded of your flexibility goals or what have you.
This practice also makes it easier to accomplish a little bit when you’re in a hurry (although, let’s be real, I haven’t been in any sort of “hurry” for over a month now).
Still, I keep my book, a pen and a coaster on one of the couches in my home at all times so I can sit down with a cup of tea and read a bit of a chapter without any sort of effort. Integrating these little memory-jog-moments into your daily life requires some degree of tenacity, and a commitment to getting them to fit whenever possible. If you’re trying to paint more, it might be helpful to keep paints and a canvas out and readily available somewhere so that whenever you start to feel creative, you can capitalize on that and get to work immediately.
This also fits in with the supplies note I mentioned. When you like your supplies, you will be more likely to interact with them and to work on the project at hand.
4. Be bad at it!!!!
Being bad at things builds character and being good at them all the time makes you obnoxious. So, just accept the fact that you’re gonna suck for a little, and remember that if you don’t suck at least a little bit, you’re probably really annoying, so just roll with it. Give yourself the space and patience to be bad at things - I promise, no one is judging.
5. Make a damn routine, and stick to it
Since we’re all in quarantine at the moment, this facet is not as relevant as it usually is but it’s definitely still important. I encourage you to pick the time of day when you typically feel most creative and dedicate at least 15 minutes to doing something to further your goal. I am my most creative and efficient self early in the morning, so I have developed a routine in the mornings that gives me the time I need to work on writing-related pieces. Then, later in the afternoon I often feel antsy and anxious, so I use that time to stretch and be physically active. Then, at night I am my most “fun” self, so I give myself time to draw or paint or learn new skills.
It’s all about figuring out what works for you. Let it be personal, and let it be quirky.
6. Share your work
As we’ve seen over the past few weeks - which have felt like years - human connection is very important. Staying connected keeps us afloat, and the same goes for our passions. When other humans encourage us to reach our goals, we are more likely to continue working through them despite discouraging road blocks. At a time when the world feels like it’s unraveling, this phase of the habit-development process must be emphasized even more than usual. If someone comes to you for support, give it to them - no excuses. And if you go to someone and they don’t give you support, well… fuck that. Go find someone who will.